The overhead shot

Whilst watching a movie the other night, the camera cut to an overhead shot. It is such an unusual angle (how many times have you been strapped to the ceiling looking down into the room) that I considered its purpose.

Presumably, the unusual angle is meant to unnerve us in some way; ‘this is unusual, so something strange is going to happen’. Most often, nothing unusual does happen and I am left wondering if the director asked for that angle just to be edgy.

If it is that the angle is meant to unnerve the audience, why don’t they choose some other weird angle, like shooting up through the floor? Why has the overhead shot become established as an acceptable angle which the audience would ‘get’?

Another unresolved (for me at least) device is when the actor speaks directly to the camera and thus, the audience. The suspension of disbelief is destroyed there, so what has the film narrative become, a kind of stand-up comedy routine? I’m not sure.

Film language must develop like any other language but how is a new ‘word’ explained to an audience who have never heard that particular word before? Do the audience create their own interpretation?

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